Brian Lynch’s studio is IKEA-style tidy, tiny, and thankfully prim. Black and white art hangs on the arctic white walls and an enormous etching machine sits in the middle.
Lynch is a New Yorker, a Chenango County native, but has studied and worked all across the union. “I did my undergraduate work at SUNY Brockport, then I moved out to Chicago and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. I did my graduate work, my MFA, at University of Iowa. After that I moved to Chicago and did various jobs. In 1990, I moved to New York City.”
Since the move, Lynch has received awards from Philadelphia Print Center, the Society of American Graphic Artists, and the Boston Printmakers Print Biennial, among others. He’s had solo shows in Dartmouth and the Snug Harbor Cultural Center.
Lynch’s style isn’t gaudy, it’s dialed in and distinct in its lack of frills. “In a general way, (it is) figurative art, because I base a lot of my work on observation of very everyday kind of events and people doing mundane things. I’ve always had an interest in that. My most influential artists, I guess, would be [French artist and impressionist Edgar] Degas and more contemporary would be someone like [pop art superhero) Alex Katz. “It’s basically drawing from observation and trying to simplify it, draw it down to a few lines, basically,” says Lynch. “Different artists have different ways of talking about their work. I’m more in the school of letting my work speak for itself. Other artists have a lot of conceptual stuff that goes along with it.”
“I mainly do etching. I’ve been doing etching since I was an undergrad at Brockport. Started off as a painter, and I didn’t even really know what printmaking was. I had a really great professor, Robert Marx, and it just opened up a whole world for me. It continued from there and I did my graduate work in printmaking.” Drawing, he says, gives him a chance to stretch his creative muscles. “That’s the reason why I do a lot of drawing, because it’s kind of a graphic medium.”
Lynch has been in Saugerties since 2007. “I teach at Albany, but just as an adjunct. In fact, that’s kind of how I fell upon Saugerties. I would drive to the city, back and forth, and when I drove through this area, I really liked what I saw.
“(Saugerties) seems to just be getting better and better,” says Lynch. “My wife and I really love it here. She teaches in the city… I work for a scenic artists union.” Lynch has worked on the sets of The Bourne Ultimatum and Spike Lee’s upcoming Mike Tyson analogue piece Da Brick.
“A lot of the locations were pretty funky,” he says of Da Brick, “places in Brooklyn that I normally wouldn’t go, like Crown Heights. That’s been pretty exciting, all in the past year. And what’s great about it is I can work really intensely for a month or two, and when the project is done I come up here.”
He’s glad to have discovered his new work schedule. “Before, I tried to mix it together, but I like it this way better. I can focus, I can relax, I’m making more money.”
One of the few color pieces in the studio shows true inspiration. It’s a portrait of the back side of an obese, shirtless dude with thinning black hair leaning over a rail and staring at a river. He has a world-beating wife-beater tan and scorched red shoulders. “That’s an old one, it comes from Chicago. He appeared in a lot of my drawings and paintings. He was one of those street guys who I like drawing. My favorite thing was seeing him walk around with this t-shirt that said “Still #1”,” he says, smiling. “It was hilarious.”
Some of the pictures on the wall are quick, busy scribbles of everyday characters; a hipster in square glasses and a puffy jacket, a Hassidic Jewish guy wearing a yarmulke, a lonely little old man in an equally lonely little old wheelchair. For these, Lynch draws his inspiration from daily life. “A lot of these I did down in New York. I have a storefront studio on 47th Street in Hell’s Kitchen, and people would walk by. I’d try to take a mental snapshot and draw them as quickly as I could. That’s why a lot of these drawings are drawn with ink, because you can load up the brush and throw down a few brushstrokes. I found that that was a better medium than pencil. Most of the drawings are done with ink.”
A piece that stands out is a grey and black study of a tree line, with powerful peaks of white shooting between the waning grey and the total black. “I was at the McDowell community, which is this arts community up in New Hampshire, and at night everything was really dark. From my studio, I could look out the door at night and see the town of Peterborough, the lights coming through the trees. I couldn’t see what I was doing when I did that.”
Lynch’s drawing work is emotive, swift, and studious. He understands angles and human form; the hipster in the puffy jacket looks like he’s been crafted out of a single, long stroke, but he conveys a sense of movement and winter-longing. He’s a master print maker, a teacher of the subject.
Lynch’s show, “Images of Everyday Life,” will open at the Saugerties Public Library Jan. 21 from 12 to 2 pm. His new wall collage, a figurative mural on everyday life, will be on display.